A Tale of Two Selfies & An Unpodcast

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been struggling hard to keep up with my life and feeling this knot of doom hanging over me about the holidays coming up and how am I going to do it all, be everything that everyone needs me to be, and have enough of me to put out all the fires that keep popping up. It was exhausting. I haven’t been sleeping well, and having a hard time keeping myself from eating all the bad things!

Since I started PiYo, my morning workouts have been where I work through those emotional leftovers from the day before, but for the past two weeks I could barely drag myself out of bed for them and I just didn’t feel that “ahhhhhhhhhh” moment afterwards. My success partner, Lacy, and I made a commitment to post our sweaty selfies as a way to be accountable to each other and our clients. Here’s mine from Wednesday…

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I took TEN and this was the best smile I could manage. I just wasn’t feeling it. I was too wrapped up in what I knew was coming in the rest of my day, and it wrecked my ability to make the most of my morning. I wasn’t wrong about my day, either. I have a recurring project that was assigned to me a couple of years ago that gives me a lot of anxiety because it’s pretty far outside of my strong skill set. I have begged and pleaded for reassignment with no luck. Meanwhile, it keeps growing and getting more complicated, and at one point on Wednesday I locked myself in my office, put my head down and cried like a baby because I felt like it would never end.

On Thursday, I didn’t even bother getting out of bed to work out. I was mentally and physically exhausted. I considered calling out, fantasized about quitting, and eventually dragged myself out the door and into the office. I listen to podcasts in the car, and happened to be listening to the Unpodcast that day. And Scott Stratten said something along the lines of “I don’t spend time working on my weaknesses. I think that just wastes time I could spend on getting great at my strengths.”

And I was like – WHOA. That’s exactly what I’ve been doing to myself. I’ve been feeling like there are so many things about me that I need to fix, that I need to work on, that I need to get better at, that I need to just manage, that I haven’t put any time into the things I’m GOOD at. No wonder I feel like crap about myself if all my energy is going into things I can barely scrape together and whose only role in my bigger plan is to eventually GO AWAY.

So I pushed the nightmare project off to the side, took care of the things that were on deadline, and spent the entire rest of my day on a project that I love and that I excel at. And you know what? It worked. It freaking worked! I rushed back from lunch to get back to it, and was almost late leaving for the day because I had to get one last thought down into my notes – which I brought home for the weekend because some of them can be reused for my coaching business.

When I got home, I had quality time with PJ and Paul, and I slept like a rock. I woke up this morning excited for my workout, and I nailed it. It was FUN again! Here’s today’s selfie:

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On the FIRST try too. So I guess what I’m trying to say is, not that I won’t ever try to learn a new skill or get better about something I’m not good at, but I’m definitely going to be more guarded with my time to make sure that these things don’t take over my life again. Life lessons from (un)marketers for the win!

An Open Letter to Matt Walsh, From A Working Mom

Hi Matt,

We’ve never met, but I’m a reader of your blog. I found you when your post about encountering a reader and a mom with a screaming child in a grocery store went viral. Our babies are the same age, 8 months. I love the way you write about your children, and especially your wife who I can tell you respect and appreciate very deeply. I think that if our kids were ever in a play group together and I had the opportunity to get to know “real Matt” as opposed to “blog Matt,” I would probably like you. But I wonder whether you would like me, or if you would despise me the way I feel that you do after some of your posts.

There are many ideas you’ve written about where we agree, some where we disagree but you’ve made me think about issues in a different way, and others where I just could not disagree more. Most of those have to do with how you view the role of women. I loved your first piece about stay at home moms, and your passionate defense against the asinine “But what do you do all day?” dismissal of that profession.

And then you wrote about chivalry. For the record, I always smile and say thank you to anyone who holds a door for me or any similar act of kindness. If it’s a two door situation, I will hold the next door for the person as well. So I am a fan of this kind of polite behavior and wish more people still did it, and will be teaching my son to demonstrate it. But going into a discussion of how men do this for women to prove that they can physically dominate us poor little girls but choose not to by serving us instead made me a little uneasy. If I thought for a second that the nice man holding the door for me at Wawa was doing it not to be a nice, decent human being but to say “Hey lady, I could beat you to a pulp right now if I wanted, but I don’t, so aren’t I great?” I would probably consider throwing my coffee at him – but that would be a waste of good coffee, and as parents of 8 month olds we know that just isn’t done, amiright?

Your second defense of SAHM’s was pretty good too, but took a few swipes at those of us who work that I didn’t feel were necessary.  The contemptuous reference to “outsourcing our Mom duties” was a bit annoying, but nothing I haven’t encountered before. By the way, this is my little one during some recent “outsourcing,” it’s actually one of my favorite pictures of him because he’s clearly having a great time!

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But the piece that finally drove me to write this, because quite honestly every time that I’ve sat down to write anything else since you published it I haven’t been able to, is about the gender pay gap. Specifically, that you don’t think it exists, or that if it does it’s all well and good because, hey, women don’t do the valuable work anyway (except at home). We’re waitresses and hair dressers (who like to be called stylists, by the way), not pilots and construction workers. We don’t have big, manly muscles to do real work. I could go on, but I got your idea – you’re apples, we’re oranges, and there’s no need for anyone to worry about how and why women make 77 cents for every dollar men do.

Here’s where you’re really going to despise me, Matt. I do worry about it, and think that it’s really irresponsible of someone like you with a large audience to get on your soapbox and say “Nothing to see here, folks, forget about it.” Let’s look at an apples to apples situation, and I will show you how working women, especially women with children, earn less than their male counterparts because of a system that is biased towards that happening.

You are correct that statistics show a leveling playing field for younger, college educated women to join the work force on an equal pay footing with their male classmates. Hooray for progress! But the problem starts showing up later down the road – men and women are perceived differently for exhibiting the same behaviors. Aggressive men are promoted, aggressive women are reprimanded. Men claim credit for their work within teams, women give more credit to group efforts – and when it comes to promotion time, guess who gets it?

And when you start having kids, the system kicks into overdrive. My husband and I work for different companies in the same industry. My company was very generous and understanding with my extended maternity leave to care for a preemie. My husband’s company pressured him to report back to work the very next day after the baby was born. When the baby is sick or our sitter cancels, I am the one to stay home most of the time. My husband does sometimes too, and would split that time with me more equally except that when he does take “baby time off,” he is expected to explain, not about what’s wrong with the baby, but why his wife can’t do it. Which puts me in an awkward position when there’s a sick baby situation of being both directly accountable to my own boss for any time I take off and indirectly accountable to a boss at a company I don’t even work for for any time my husband takes off. The kicker being that my husband still has vacation days left, so he gets paid either way, and I don’t because I used them all over maternity leave.

So just within my own household, there is a gender wage gap. I’m not talking about our different salaries for the different functions we fulfill in our industry, but about the cold, hard fact that my W2 is significantly lower than the previous year’s, and my husband’s is not, for no other reason than that I had a baby. I didn’t suddenly lose all of my skills, or change jobs, or give up any of my responsibilities, but my earnings fell off a cliff not just in relation to my childless self, but also in relation to my also-a-new-parent husband.

And just to be clear, I’m not saying I should be paid for hours that I didn’t work and don’t have vacation time to use. I am not saying that I resent any minute I’ve spent with my child instead of in my office, or that my husband does either. What I am saying is that the gender gap in the American work force is not a myth. It’s not a feminist plot to destroy society as we know it. It’s not a bunch of waitresses whining about how much more airline pilots make than they do.

I know your great disdain for government, and I am not a public policy expert to take you on in that sphere anyway. But how about things that businesses can do, without government intervention, to keep that playing field as level as it can be not just post-college, but throughout all of working life?

First, managers can make an effort to recognize aggression bias and stop penalizing women for behavior that is rewarded in men. Second, family leave policy shouldn’t only be acceptably used by mothers. Third, the bias against the long term unemployed is getting a lot of attention right now because of the people still struggling to find work after the recession, but it’s always been a factor for women who take years off to raise children. If employers who are consciously trying to overcome this bias now because of the recession apply that same consciousness to women returning to work, that could help close the gap as well. None of these things require legislation to happen, but they do require people to acknowledge the gender gap’s existence. Not just employers, but people. Until my husband can spend time at home with our son without getting questions about me from his boss, his coworkers, and others, and until I can think about what another baby would do to our, instead of my, earning potential, it’s flat out wrong to say that the gender gap doesn’t exist.

You may not ever see this, Matt, but if you do, I hope that I have returned the favor of the food for thought you have given me in your work. Be well, and keep loving that family of yours so fiercely, I look forward to seeing more of your adventures in parenting!

– Shanna

It’s Possible to Be Too Subtle

I’ve been back to work for two months now, and overall it’s been great. I feel like I’m going in a good direction, career wise, and I love getting pictures of PJ and seeing what he’s doing throughout the day.

The one consistent issue I’ve been having is with pumping. Some days it’s really difficult to carve out enough time to sit still and do it. And other days, well, I’m reminded that it’s very possible to be too subtle! From my first day back, I printed up a sign that simply read “Please Do Not Disturb – Please use other door.” (My office sits in a weird spot that lots of people use as a shortcut).

Then I will lock my door and use that Medela hands free band (that looked terrifying in the store but has since become my favorite accessory) and do my desk work while I make PJ’s lunch for the next day. And it never fails, at least once a day, someone will knock right on that Do Not Disturb sign – or worse, ignore the sign and go straight to rattling the handle!

So I made a new sign today:

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Hopefully this does the trick – a bit more direct than I wanted to get, but still better than having to yell through the door that I really, really can’t come take a look at that right now (thump thump thump). And will save my office neighbor from having to announce that for me to people who seem to be getting ready to camp out!

For my other working, nursing moms – how do you handle this?

Juggling With Glass Bottles

Do you ever feel like you’ve got something safely in hand, only to realize that something else of equal importance is hurtling towards the ground? What else can you do but toss the first one back in the air and start juggling? That’s pretty much my life pattern, except now I can only use one hand because the other is busy holding onto the baby!

I am not the best housekeeper even under normal circumstances. I’ve come up with a pretty decent system for getting meals on the table more often, but when it comes to doing the same for cleaning and chores, well, that bottle hits the ground a lot. My husband is much tidier than I am, which is great, and I totally appreciate how much he pitches in. But I still feel like I need to get better at keeping up with the keeping up.

Anybody have a good system you want to share?

Freezer Meal: Breakfast Burritos

I work long shifts four days a week so that I can be home with baby PJ an extra day. It’s been working out great, but making it work does require some extra planning and adjusting. I’ve shared the menu planner that I use, and my basic technique for making and freezing casseroles. And as promised, I’ll share some of the recipes that work well for us.

For this one, you’ll need:
– 6 whole eggs
– 8-10 egg whites
– An 8 oz block of cheese
– Ham, sausage, bacon, or turkey
– Spinach or peppers
– Salt, pepper, and any other seasonings you like
– Package of flour tortillas

To make:

Brown any meat you are using and set aside. Scramble eggs, egg whites, and seasoning until soft set. Add the browned meat and any veggies and continue scrambling.

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Place one of the flour tortillas on a griddle pan over the lowest possible heat. Add slices of cheese:

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Then add the egg and meat mixture (or top with sliced meat):

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Then you roll it up like a burrito – which I did not take a picture of because mine are always functional but ugly haha.

Once the wrapped burritos are cooled down, wrap them in a layer of saran wrap, then a layer of freezer foil.

Paul and I take them straight from the freezer (unwrapped) to the microwave for two minutes. And I vary the meat and vegetables every time I make a batch.

Enjoy, and let me know what combos you come up with!

How To: Make Ahead Freezer Meals

In the weeks before I went back to work, I started filling up my freezer so that I wouldn’t need to waste any valuable snuggle time cooking in the evenings. It worked great, and we just finished up the last tray this week. I’m working on my grocery list for next weekend to make another few batches. I’ll post some of my favorite recipes as I make them, and today I’ll fill you in on my technique.
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It’s Waahnesday Already?

I had a happy, peppy post planned for today, but it would be a total lie to post it, so we’re winging it instead.

I am tired. Up every half hour all night tired. Ready for bed but need to keep myself and a tired, crying baby awake for another hour so he sleeps through the night tired. Financial stress from being off work for months tired.
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